Twice married, but still slim and elegant, at the age of 36, Ernest Wallis Simpson with a keen intelligence and a gift for the witty repartee, managed to steal the heart of Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David, the Prince of Wales, who was the son of King George VI and Queen Mary, in a house party at Fort, the Prince's home at Belvedere, on the edge of Windsor Great Park. Wallis, once divorced, was married at the time to shipbroker Ernest Simpson.
Prince Edward's family was worried about the Prince's preference at the age of 38, about his liaison with securely married Dudley Ward, who was the wife of a Liberal MP. Apparently, she had a strong influence on Prince's life, up to the point of his meeting with Simpson.
Love at first sight.
At the house party, both Dudley Ward and Wallis Simpson were guests of the Prince. His conversation during the social intercourse had been about his ideas of having new housing projects to replace some of the Britain's slums. Most of his guests were nodding their heads politely in a manner of agreement, but Wallis asked probing questions determined to understand the ins and outs of the problem, not being intimidated by his position but spoke her mind out without any hesitation, which captivated the Prince. Wallis Simpson appeared as a woman who treated him as an equal, which impressed him and to tell her later: "Wallis, you are the only woman who has ever been interested in my work."
At the dinner party, chemistry between the Prince and Wallis seemed to have worked quite well that the Prince began to fall in love with the divorcee. Seemingly, the friendship developed into a wild romance that rocked the country and spread the news round the world later as "the love affair between one of Britain's most popular kings and an American divorcee, which ended in abdication and exile."
In 1932, when Wallis Simpson came to the future king's life, the Prince was just 38. He resisted all attempts to persuade him to marry and produce an heir. However, being enchanted, Prince seemingly became a frequent visitor to Ernest Simpson's London apartment, while Wallace made her presence felt at the Fort, Belvedere, by arranging furniture and adjusting flower arrangements much to the annoyance of the staff. When the bond between the two developed, Dudley Ward discovered how the Prince refused to accept even phone calls from her.
During the summer, Prince invited Simpsons to Biarritz in Southwestern France. Ernest Simpson could not attend due to his business commitments, but Wallis accepted. It was during that holiday, part of which they spent on a yacht, anchored off a secluded little beach, the Prince came to the final decision that his "happiness rested in marrying Wallis."
The first obstacle to their marriage was Wallis had been already married. Secondly, under the Royal Marriages Act 1772, "no member of the royal family could marry without the sovereign's permission." Thirdly, King George V would never consider Wallis as a suitable bride for the Prince. Finally, Church of England, where the King was the head of the Church, relentlessly opposed to a divorce, especially when the Prince's wife was going to be a divorcee, with two ex-husbands still living at the time!
When King George V died, Prince of Wales did not gather the courage to broach the subject as he had been brought up under strict discipline, and obedience was regarded as immensely important. The American and the European press managed to lubricate the gossip machine about the "Simpson affair" while the British press maintained an inactive role. Yet, during the early days of King Edward VIII's reign, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and the Archbishop of Canterbury agreed that marriage between the King and Simpson could not be allowed.
During the first summer of the King's reign, he chartered a yacht and arranged a holiday cruise along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia's 3, 600 miles of glimmering coastline, where dramatic limestone cliffs rise from the deep, and islands are scattered just offshore. Wallis, of course, was one of the guests in that cruise. During the holiday, foreign press went wild with pictures of King and Wallis swimming, shopping and walking hand in hand. However, at home the British newspapers upheld a loyal scheme of silence, while the British politicians and churchmen prayed for the love affair to burn itself out.
By this time the husband of Wallis, Earnest Simpson, had a clandestine affair with another woman, and at that point the King made his intentions clear that he would not keep Wallis as his mistress but he would graciously arrange a divorce for her with the least possible fuss.
At a time when divorce laws were stringent, there existed a system called 'Buttercup Kennedy', which meant an overnight stay in a hotel with a professional co-respondent enabled anyone to apply for a divorce on the grounds of adultery. Wallis made use of the Buttercup Kennedy manoeuvre to divorce her husband on the grounds of adultery. The divorced slipped through Ipswich Courts without much publicity.
This obviously meant that the King would set on marriage, and in doing so; the Prime Minister was forced to wrestle with the problem head-on ensuring that the Cabinet would never sanction such a marriage with a divorcee.
Despite numerous problems pertaining to rules, heritage and traditions others had, the King insisted that he could not live without Wallis Simpson, "the most wonderful woman in the world." Queen Mary was aghast and became disgusted upon hearing such news because she could not bear the profound disgrace and humiliation that would be brought about by her son by not being willing to sacrifice his personal happiness for the sake of the Country and the Crown. She simply refused to bring Wallis to see her, neither was she interested in talking to her.
The King was getting ready to abdicate, but Wallis advocated him to fight with the understanding that the people would back the King whatever his decision was. In the meanwhile, Esmond Harmsworth, the son of Lord Rothmere suggested to Wallis the idea of a ‘Morganatic marriage’. The European royalty used morganatic arrangement where a woman marrying into royalty did not take her husband's rank, which meant that Wallis could still marry the King, but she would not be the Queen, and her children would not qualify for the legal right of succession to the throne.
A subsequent discourse by the Bishop of Bradford about the Coronation ceremony, with his remarks on shortcomings of the King to be crowned, made matters worse by enabling the breaking of the press silence at last. For the first time the King and Wallis realized the strength of feeling against them as the crowds encircled Wallis's London home and screamed insults at her. For the first time the King and Wallis were shocked.
At the end, Wallis decided to escape from Britain until such time the commotion died down and, the King being afraid for her safety arranged Lord Brownlow to escort her to the south of France to stay with her old friends, Herman Rogers in Cannes, hoping that once she was gone he would appeal to the people in order to get the public opinion (and not the government's) before taking the final decision of either to stay in Britain or go away.
Once Wallis was in France, French journalists and paparazzi’s hounded her and the British Secret Service tapped even her telephone calls. During the following weeks, after anxious and daunting telephone interactions between France and Fort Belvedere in the UK, the King prepared a speech explaining how he granted fundamental freedom to his subjects but British Prime Minister denied that right to him. In the meanwhile King's advisers, in liaison with Lord Brownlow, attempted to keep the King on the throne by trying to dissuade Wallis and to renounce the idea of marriage and also to issue a statement to that effect. This made Wallis trapped between two thorns i.e. either to stop his abdication and simultaneously not wanting the King to feel that she was deserting him either.
If such an action could solve the problem she was quite happy to withdraw from the pathetic situation, which certainly would have made her disconsolate, depressed and dejected. However, when she phoned the King and read out her statement amplifying her sincere thoughts, a long silence reigned from the King's side, which made her think perhaps the King had hung up the phone in anger. Then came a soft voice gently saying: "Go ahead, if you wish; it won't make any difference'. The outcome appeared to be inevitable and obvious, and the King had become exhausted and sad and had no heart to fight any longer.
On 10 December 1936, King Edward VIII signed the Instrument of Abdication with his three brothers as witnesses. On the following day the whole world heard his melancholy speech from Windsor Castle mentioning his abduction in a most graceful manner, without mentioning a word about Wallis, instead saying: "I found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge the duties as King as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love'. After the broadcast he bid goodbye to his family and left for France by boat via Portsmouth.
The King, after his abdication, was known as Duke of Windsor. He married Wallis in June 1937 in the absence of any of his family in attendance. The Duke was more disappointed later when his idea of returning home to his home, at Fort, Belvedere with his wife by his side, was rejected. The royal family made it clear that the Duchess was not welcome; the Duke obviously did not want to take the risk of a snub to her.
Cynics predicted that Duke's marriage would not last long, but both of them like two love birds proved their adoration to each other by squashing such rumours when the marriage lasted for 35 long years until the demise of the Duke in 1972.
Dedicating his love to the woman he adored, Duke of Windsor sacrificed his throne and always believed that he gained so much more than he lost by loving her. "To love is nothing. To be loved is something. But to love and be loved, that's everything."-T. Tolis"
(Research material: courtesy Joyce Robins)